What Should New Masonic Candidates Be Wanting?
By Worshipful Brother Justin Buirski
Modified from a short presentation delivered at an Education Working of Lodge De Goede Verwachting
I have been a Master Mason for almost 42 years. I turn 72 shortly, and by all demographics, I should now be considered a senior Freemason. During my masonic journey I have all too frequently been told by many of my experienced peers that the time has arrived for us to have to make it easier for young guys to join. We are being brainwashed into believing that the decline in membership is partially due to it being too hard for young men to find time from family and work to consider committing to Freemasonry. So, they feel we have to make it easier.
Thus, in the pursuit of making it easier we expedite the petitioning procedures. We loosen and compromise the old rules on required proficiency and participation prior to advancement. We keep our dues low to accommodate men who may not have the funds to pay higher dues. In many of our lodges we have been less rigorous in our examination of new candidates by investigating committees in order to meet some unrealistic membership vision. You seldom hear about a reservation or a black ball being dropped because, after all, don't we need the members?
But, there has been one basic problem with all that I have been told by long experienced Masons about what younger men want. None of them seemed to have ever asked any younger Masons if easier Freemasonry is what they really want! And, in fact, I have come to believe that easier Freemasonry is not what younger men who want to join our fraternity are wanting at all! My own experience is echoed in the stories I hear from newer Masons under the age of forty.
I became a Freemason in great part because of the witness of my Grandfather and Father to the value of Freemasonry. I was nineteen when my father died and attending his Masonic memorial service was impressed by the men in dark suits, white gloves, and white aprons who paid tribute to his distinguished masonic journey. At his funeral and subsequent Lodge of Mourning, I promised myself that someday I would follow in their footsteps and become a Mason if this fraternity of honourable men would have me.
More than a decade passed before I acted on that promise. During the intervening time I read extensively books and articles I could find on Freemasonry, some favourable some not. I read about the history, philosophy, and ethics of the Craft. When I petitioned Lodge Bergvliet in 1973, it was suggested that I could even be fast tracked. I elected not to ride on the fact that I was a third generation South African Freemason but, thinking about how my Grandfather had initiated his own four sons and several in-laws, requested that I not be given any special treatment. Notwithstanding, I was not passed or raised in my mother lodge and received these degrees in lodges where my ancestors had been members. I wanted to experience the full initiatory experience they had had. I desired to memorize as much of the ritual as I could handle. I did not want my mentors to cut me any slack. Forty years have passed and I have been a member of my father’s lodge for 16 years. I have twice held the chair in my grandfather’s lodge.
As I have seen many young men come into the Craft I have come to believe that they want many of the same things I wanted. Young Masons do not want anyone to make it easy for them. Younger Masons that I have talked to believe that we need to make it harder and not easier to receive the degrees. Younger Masons want to read and learn about the philosophy and teaching of Craft Masonry. They do not want Freemasonry handed to them. They want to earn it!
In my own professional life much of what I learned about budding clerks applies to Freemasonry as much as it does to accountancy. Young people, in our society, are searching for meaning, depth, and focus to their lives. They are searching for a philosophy and ethic that will help them to live a better life. They are searching for growth and self-improvement. In short, they are searching for what Ancient Craft Freemasonry in its purest form should offer them.
If us older masons would only ‘go into retirement and ask ourselves’, what they really want, I believe you will find that we both desire those fundamentals of the ancient and honourable Craft of Freemasons.
We should be wanting the freemasonry of Anderson’s constitutions. We want the freemasonry of our Fathers and Grandfathers. We want to be challenged, stretched, educated, and trained. We want the opportunity to take our rough ashlars and begin to smooth them. We want to be Freemasons in the fullest sense of the word!